Cheese rolling is a peculiar sport that is held annually in Cooper’s Hill, which is a long sloping area found in Gloucester, England. In the sport, the participants will have to chase a round cheese that is descending on the slope, and whoever reaches the bottom of the slope first will win both the game and the cheese. The game of cheese rolling was traditionally held for the local villagers of Brockworth, Gloucestershire, but it has recently been an international competition where people from all around the world can participate. To know more about this obscure sport, here is an introduction to cheese rolling.
How It is Played
At the start of the game, a round of hard cheese that weighs approximately 3 to 4 kilograms will be rolled down the slope at Cooper’s Hill. However, before the participants can start racing, the cheese will be given a one-second head start. During the first iterations of the sport, the goal of the participants was to chase the cheese and catch it before it reaches the finish line. However, since the cheese travels faster than humans, when it is going down a slope, the rules were changed, and the goal is only to reach the finish line first in order to win the cheese.
Since the cheese is a hard object that travels fast down the slope, reaching speeds up to 110 kilometers per hour, many people were getting injured whenever they get hit by the cheese. To make the sport safer, some organizers would replace the cheese with a softer foam replica. The cheese used for the event, the Double Gloucester cheese, is a locally made cheese that is traditionally molded to be round in shape. The Master of Ceremonies or the MC of the event would usually put a wooden casing on it to protect its shape.
Nobody knows exactly who invented the sport and when it was invented, although there are currently two theories that are considered to be the most plausible in regards to how people associated rolling down objects, and not just cheese, on Cooper’s Hill. The first theory is that the Ancient Romans were the first ones who tried to hurl down objects on the slope when they built a fort in Cooper’s Hill. The second theory is that it was the pagans who rolled down bundles of brushwood as a part of their ritual. Rolling down burned brushwood on the slope is believed to represent the birth of the New Year.
It was believed that the pagan ritual eventually evolved into the cheese rolling sport around the 1800s, but there is not enough evidence to support the claim that they are connected. As such, it could be assumed that someone else has invented the sport without having any knowledge of the pagan rituals.
Despite existing in the early 1800s, it was only in 1826 when the first written evidence for the sport was created. The sport was written in a message, which states that the game of cheese rolling was already an old tradition.
Since the 1990s, the sport has become popular not only among locals but also among tourists. In the 1982 cheese rolling competition, a group of students studying at the University of Bristol filmed the event. They have used multiple cameras while filming, and one of those cameras was set in slow motion. That specific video would then be rediscovered in the 1990s and served as a gateway for foreigners to see the wonderful gameplay mechanics of cheese rolling. Since then, there are thousands of tourists who participate in cheese rolling, and the number of foreign participants is double the number of local participants each year.
When it reached its peak of popularity in the 2000s, many health experts were concerned over the safety of the game, as they would often see participants tumbling down uncontrollably on the slope. In fact, in 1993, it was reported that 15 participants were injured while participating in the cheese rolling competition, with four of them suffering from serious injuries. The injuries sustained by a few participants didn’t stop more and more tourists and locals from joining the event.
It was in 2009 when health experts won over the organizers of the event, and the annual cheese rolling competition was canceled that year. In order to keep the obscure tradition alive, a group composed of local residents who love playing the sport held a smaller event in 2010.
Because of the backlash that cheese rolling had over its safety in the late 2000s, it seemed that the real cheese rolling competition would never be revived. Fortunately for the fans of the weird sport, the event was unofficially revived in 2011 without the help of the management that organizes most of the cheese rolling competitions in Cooper’s Hill. The 2011 competition was named “Save the Cheese Roll,” and even though there were no paramedics or organizers, the event was able to gather more than 500 participants. Since 2012, all the cheese rolling events were held without managers and organizers, and the cheeses that were used as prizes for the races were just sponsored or given as donation by local cheesemaker Diana Smart and her son Rod Smart, although the Smart family has been supplying the organizers of the sport since 1988.